Sunday, April 05, 2009

Why not keep it simple, Part Deux

In the comments section of my previous post, Jaunty Quicksand, CricketAnalysis, and Cricket Tragic wonder about my take on India's possible tactics on day three of the Basin Reserve. I thought of responding in the comments but as this was something I was planning to write on today, I'll just respond to them here. First of all, I don't think Dhoni should be too worried about my criticism. I'm not a journalist, just a lame-ass amateur blogger. I doubt Dhoni reads this blog (though it would be cool if he did; Hi Mahi!). And I don't think the BCCI does either so there is no worry that he'll lose his job thanks to my blatherings. I'm only writing as a fan that would like to see the Indian team develop a habit of winning. I tend to think playing aggressively (or being an aggressive captain) in tests is a bit like doing drugs or having sex; it gets easier after the first time. Sometimes "Go on, take a hit" or "C'mon, lets do it" can be good advice. (Please, no complaints from the Morality Brigade).

I think not declaring quickly today would be poor tactics in the context of this test, and poor strategy in terms of India's aspirations to become a world cricketing power. It would be poor tactics because time could be severely limited in this test (thanks to rain and light), and a team should try and win keeping in mind the resources at hand. India could have declared yesterday but given the light situation, they were right to just carry on but now, they should either declare overnight or after an hour at most. Any more, and the suspicion they will be content with a draw rather than being really hungry for win will be confirmed. This isn't the time and place to think about inflicting more scars on the Kiwi bowlers (the series is over for them) or to give Yuvraj batting practice. The time is right to get on with the business of winning the game.

India already have a lead of over 500, which is more than enough to exert significant pressure on New Zealand. With all due respect to New Zealand, I don't think they can make 500 to win. (JQ: in the match that you linked to, NZ were 333-9 before Astle launched a once-in-a-lifetime attack; I don't think captains should plan for once-in-a-lifetime events, otherwise, they'd be too many to think about). Shoot, I doubt any team in the world today could make 500 to win against this Indian attack on any pitch. Its not because this attack is a consistently world-beating attack just yet (after all their averages are 34, 31, 36 and 30), but just because fourth innings of tests tend to be quite special affairs. Yes, sure, NZ made 600 in the last test, but that was in the first innings. In the first innings of this test, they made 197, and they won't be feeling too flash about themselves. And if India doesn' t think they can bowl them out for less than 500, then they have a severe confidence problem. New Zealand's batting has Taylor, Ryder, McCullum and Vettori as potential match-winners, sure; but India should back themselves; with Zaheer and Harbhajan bowling as well as they are in this test, they should really feel confident.

From a strategic point of view, winning needs to become a habit, and one way to do it is to put yourself regularly in situations where you can win, and win big. 2-0 just is better than 1-0, lets admit it. Sometimes this comes from turning around dodgy situations, sometimes from recognizing you have all the advantages you need. India are in the latter position; they should go for it.


Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...

Samir, fair enough. I concur that captains should not plan for once-in-a-lifetime innings. But then, by the same token, they should not make plans trying to predict what the weather will do on the next day either.

I am someone who thinks that 400 runs is enough, but in this case having watched the match closely, I was of the opinion that if the Kiwis were given even a chance of a win, they'd take it. MSD was clear that he wanted to leave the Kiwis with just two options, draw or lose, and ruminate over it for a long time.

Let's do some number-crunching here. India batted for an hour, consuming 15 overs this morning. New Zealand had a maximum of 88+90 overs to play over the last 2 days. Assuming the last hour is lost on both days for bad light, that is 30 less overs. So, in essence the Kiwis have to survive for around 150 overs. By having to score 600plus, it takes that option out of the equation and drip by drip this bowling attack can prise out the wickets as they play for time.

As we speak, 15 overs have gone by, one wicket has fallen. At this "rate" sometime tomorrow the Test will be done. If it rains the whole day, well it rains. Just as one cannot plan for a once-in-a-lifetime plan, one should not plan too much for the rain. Imagine if India had set a 500 target in 200-plus overs and the Kiwis had batted at 2.5 runs an over. Then what?

I TOTALLY understand the need to crush someone 2-0, but not at the risk of an outside chance of a 1-1 finish. We can agree to disagree on this point. I think MSD played the right cards here. I hope the result supports my feeling that he has gauged the game situation well.

9:28 PM  
Blogger samir said...

JQ: Captains have to pay attention to the weather. He doesn't have to do the predictions. He can use the weather service! Besides, its common sense. NZ is known for its wet weather in the summer. And Daylight Savings Time ended this Sunday! Its a little amateurish really to not pay attention to environmental factors. Don't captains have to think about pitches when making decisions after the toss?

You say "Imagine if India had set a 500 target in 200-plus overs and the Kiwis had batted at 2.5 runs an over. Then what?"

Well, I don't think NZ would have lasted 200 overs! And India shouldn't go out in the field thinking that either. Thats been my central point, that India has to back themselves, to show some confidence by their actions.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Is it really true that someone has scheduled a Test Match over the time change weekend, without changing the start times accordingly? Incredible.

12:13 AM  
Blogger samir said...

Jonathan: Pretty strange isn't it?

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Krishna said...

I think the simple matter is this: If India cannot bowl a team out in 4 or 5 sessions, then they don't deserve to win. I don't think that the Indian bowlers are going to be any less confident by the captain not declaring earlier.

By setting an above 600 target, you close the door on the question of what if the bowlers cannot do their job properly. And now the bowlers are no longer under pressure. They don't get rattled by someone making a quickfire 50 because they have enough runs to play with. Sooner or later, the law of averages will kick in and get their person.

Of course, rain may still interfere. You cannot really help that. After all, India have escaped with draws on rainy days too.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Krishna: A fourth innings target of 500 will get you a win every time in a test match. Thats a pretty good inductive generalization to make. When that moment presented itself (to make a declaration), Dhoni should have taken it. If winning was foremost in his mind. It wasn't.

11:37 PM  

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